WASHINGTON—The United States will be sending “several thousand” more American troops to the southern border to provide additional support to Homeland Security, Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said on Jan. 29, providing for the first time new estimates for the next phase of the military aid.
He said the troops will mainly be used to install additional wire barriers and provide a large new system of mobile surveillance and monitoring of the border area. Plans call for about 150 more miles of concertina wire placed mainly in the gaps between ports of entry.
It’s still not clear how many of the roughly 2,400 active duty forces currently working the border mission will go home and not be replaced, but the Pentagon estimates that the total number of forces deployed there over the coming months will exceed 4,000.
The Department of Homeland Security, said Shanahan “has asked us to support them in additional concertina wire and then expanded surveillance capability, and we’ve responded with, you know, here how many people it would take and this is the timing and mix of the people to support that.”
The Pentagon has approved an extended U.S. deployment to the border through the end of September. As of Tuesday, officials were still working out exactly how many forces would be deployed and what units should be tapped.
Officials said that the majority of the troops going to the border now will be combat engineers and support forces who will install the additional barriers. The expectation is that they will complete the job in a few months and then be able to go home.
Many of the others will start the expanded surveillance mission which will last at least through September. The U.S. forces will use Customs and Border Protection vehicles that have mounted surveillance cameras and they will monitor the border.
Troops are not allowed to do any law enforcement duties, so they can’t detain illegal immigrants crossing the border. Instead, when they see suspicious activity they will alert CBP agents, who would then deal with any illegal immigrants involved.
By Lolita C. Baldor